Finite element modelling of spinal surgery in paediatric spinal deformity patients

Study level


Master of Philosophy

Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Paige Little
Senior Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty

External supervisors

  • Dr Geoffrey Askin, Queensland Children's Hospital
  • Dr Robert Labrom, Queensland Children's Hospital


We have developed custom software to create patient-specific finite element (FE) models of an individual spine for paediatric patients. We use these models to improve our understanding of the biomechanics of the young deformed spine (particularly children with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis - S shaped spinal curve) and to simulate the surgery these patients will receive, in order to predict their potential surgical outcomes.

This information can assist surgeons in pre-operative planning. Vertebral body tethering (VBT) is a type of surgery performed on young patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, that is designed to allow the patient to still be able to move and their spine to grow after the implant is in place, but at the same time, to control the way their spine grows so as to reduce the deformity in their spinal column. This is a relatively new technique and there is much still to be learnt regarding the biomechanical aspects of correcting the patients spine using this surgery.

Research activities

The candidate will use our patient-specific finite element model to simulate the biomechanics of an individual paediatric patient's spine, in order to predict the surgical outcomes following vertebral tethering surgery. The study will involve a sensitivity study of different implant positions, different implant materials and different surgical methods, in order to gain new information on the best possible surgical protocol for carrying out VBT surgery.


  • Sensitivity study of VBT surgical parameters using a patient-specific finite element model
  • Gain new information on best choice for implant material, implant position and surgical procedures for paediatric spinal deformity surgery


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.


Phone: 3069 7325